Michael Bennett says returning to Ohio State was right choice

NEW ORLEANS -- Ohio State defensive lineman Michael Bennett could be an NFL rookie right now, but the Buckeyes' top 2015 draft prospect will be a better one in 2015. And the 6-foot-2, 288-pound leader of the OSU defensive line says he has no regrets about coming back to play for the Buckeyes in 2014.

"Looking back, it's the best decision I've made so far in my life because I don't know where I would be in the NFL," Bennett said. "I'm sure I wouldn't be out (of the league), but I don't think I'd be set up for success the way I am now."

Bennett has spent much of his senior year in opposing offensive backfields, making 12.5 tackles for loss and collapsing pass pockets from the inside. Bennett wouldn't have it any other way.

"Whenever you feel like you have the opportunity to go, you want to. But I talked to (former Ohio State defensive line) Coach (Mike) Vrabel about it, talked to my parents, and I had a lot of growth I had to do," Bennett said. "Not just physically, but mentally. I got a lot bigger, my technique got better, I got faster. I grew as a leader and person, especially with the experiences we've had to go through this year."

After Ohio State's postseason is complete, Bennett will turn his attention to the Reese's Senior Bowl, where he will be one of the most-watched prospects later this month.

Ravens' Mosley makes impact on Ragland: Alabama weakside linebacker Reggie Ragland, who replaced Baltimore Ravens 2014 first-round pick C.J. Mosley at the position, called Mosley the smartest player he has ever been around when asked about being mentored by Mosley.

"C.J., he had a presence. When he spoke, people would be quiet," Ragland said. "He taught me everything about being a leader. I still talk to C.J. to this day, and he still gives me pointers on things that he does in the league. ... He always used to point out little things to me. He's the smartest player I've played with in my lifetime."

Mosley returned for his senior year and Ragland, who is considering early draft entry as an underclassman, said he saw marked improvement in Mosley that year. But that doesn't mean he will be swayed to stay.

"Everybody's situation isn't the same. Some guys think differently, some guys have situations at home that are different," Ragland said. "C.J.'s had a good background at home and his mom wanted him to get the education. That was very good for him to come back, be the No. 17 pick, and be one of the top linebackers coming out business-wise, too."

Shepherd NFL-bound: Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal believes Crimson Tide senior right tackle Austin Shepherd can not only survive in the NFL, but thrive in it. Although Shepherd isn't among the team's top draft prospects -- as is often the case at a top program, where it's common that the elite prospects are juniors -- Shepherd has what it takes to make a pro career himself.

"He absolutely does have pro potential. Austin has changed his body over the past year. I think he's weighing 318 pounds now," Cristobal said. "He's a smart guy who understands it. He can tell what the defense is going to do. He can read stances, structure, alignments, and has great balance and sense of timing. He's become a really effective, productive run blocker this year. He's been very physical with his double teams, he's a better finisher, and I think he's got tremendous upside."

Bosa on Spence: Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa said the team was shocked when defensive end Noah Spence was ruled permanently ineligible by the Big Ten in November, triggered by a conference policy dealing with a reported failed drug test. Spence has since declared for the 2015 draft.

"It's so rough and you've got to feel so bad for someone that's so close to us in that room. We couldn't even believe it," Bosa said. "We knew we had guys who had to step up and start playing well, and they did just that. He hasn't been around much, but we always try to be there for him and try to help him through everything."

Three and out: Alabama running back Kenyan Drake said he will return to Alabama as a fourth-year junior in 2015. The Tide's explosive reserve running back -- offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has referred to him as the offense's "Reggie Bush type" -- fractured his leg against Ole Miss and was lost for the season. ... Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones on being thrust into the position of making his second career start in a national semifinal: "I feel pretty good about the whole thing even though it's come so fast." ... Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon said former Tide star Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers visited his old team on Monday. His advice for Yeldon? "He says you've got to stay more focused in the league, take care of your body and get lots of treatment," Yeldon, a junior who has a 2015 draft decision to make, said.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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